Cleaning up the downtown core by preventing the sale of fortified alcohol has not proven to be as successful as city officials hoped.
Commander Jon Schuldt reported the statistics from the six-month Alcohol Impact Area ordinance did not show a decrease in calls for service. The ordinance created a six-month voluntary prohibition on selling fortified alcohol and malt liquors within the 0.6-square-mile area encompassing much of the downtown shopping core.
According to the Liquor and Cannabis Board, the purpose of an alcohol impact area is “for local authorities to have a process to mitigate problems with chronic public inebriation or illegal activities linked to the sale or consumption of alcohol.”
If the ban proved to be successful, the police and city planned on taking the issue to the board to make the restrictions mandatory. The ordinance took effect in December 2016.
During the Sept. 11 Committee of the Whole meeting, Schuldt reported the total calls of service did not see a decline. In a memo to the Renton City Council, it was reported that the calls of service for the impact area increased by four this year.
RPD identified seven stores in the targeted area that sold fortified alcohol, including Fred Meyer, Safeway, Why Too Grocery, Southsea Grocery, Bronson Way Mini Mart, 101 Grocery and 7-Eleven.
Since the ban was voluntary, only Fred Meyer and Safeway jumped on board with the plan. Schuldt reported the store managers said the alcohol was bringing in high number of thefts and wanted to reduce the impact it was having for their customers.
Southsea Grocery went out of business within that time. The other stores reportedly did not comply with the ban.
“They said it would be too much of a hardship to their businesses to stop selling alcohol, that it was too much of their revenue,” said Schuldt.
He said there were case studies that showed an increase of the revenue stream when businesses complied with the ordinance saw, and that he tried to explain the advantages of the ban to the businesses when he conducted routine spot checks.
One reason the calls of service has not declined could be due to RPD’s recent public outreach. Schuldt said business owners have been encouraged over the past few months to contact police in case of emergencies. There has also been an increase of stationed officers and emphasis patrol within the downtown core.
LCB suggested the city continue the voluntary ban and collect more data to see if the city meets LCB’s threshold to put a mandatory ban in place.
“At this point we can continue the efforts we’ve been doing, and have this as a future tool when we see an increased calls of service,” said Schuldt.
Council member Armondo Pavone said he thinks the city does not have enough data to show there’s value in having the ban.
“Which might be a good thing. It might mean we’re heading in the right direction,” he said in a phone interview. “My statement still stands, which is that the alcohol impact area is not the goal. The goal is to clean up downtown and make sure we don’t have much public intoxication downtown.”